How to Press

wrinkles from fabric. Pressing involves applying pressure with your iron, mostly in an up and down
motion, with the goal of shaping, creasing, or smoothing fabric. Another reason to
press instead of
iron is to avoid stretching your fabric, which ironing can cause.

To press, you need at least a steam iron and a sturdy ironing board. And there are lots of other
helpful tools that can aid in pressing – especially with pressing shaped seams. See
Pressing Tools for
a list.

General Pressing Tips

    Set up your iron and ironing board near your sewing area. It can be convenient to just leave
    your iron on during a sewing session instead of turning it on every time you need to press a

    Use an iron temperature appropriate for your fabric. Refer to your fabric’s care instructions, or
    see Fabric Fibers for pressing recommendations for various fabrics. In addition, you can refer to
    the fabric guides many irons come labeled with on their temperature dials.

    Consider testing your iron on a swatch of your fabric first to make sure the temperature is
    correct. An iron temperature that’s too low won’t press you fabric sufficiently. An iron
    temperature that’s too high can scorch, melt, discolor, or flatten the surface of your fabric.

    Do most of your pressing on the wrong side of your fabric. For pressing the right side of your
    fabric, use a press cloth on top to prevent shine.

    Be careful not to press over pins or basting. You could melt the plastic heads of your pins or
    make impressions in your fabric that may be difficult to remove.

How to press a straight seam

    After sewing your seam, lay your fabric piece on your ironing board and press the seam flat.
    Then turn your piece over and press the seam on the other side. This will set your stitches into
    your fabric and smooth the seam.

    Next, you have two options:

    You can press your seam allowances open. To do this, lay your fabric piece on your ironing
    board wrong side up and spread the seam allowances apart with your fingers. Then press the
    seam allowances flat with your iron. Turn your fabric piece over and press the seam on the
    right side (preferably with a press cloth on top). You may want to drape your seam over a seam
    roll (see Pressing Tools) instead of placing it directly on your ironing board. Sometimes,
    especially with thicker fabric, the edges of seam allowances can press ridges into the right side
    of fabric. The curved surface of a seam roll can prevent this.

    Or you can press your seam allowances to one side. Choose this option if your guide sheet
    instructs you to or if you plan to serge or overcast the seam allowances together. Place your
    fabric piece on your ironing board wrong side up, spread the two sides of your piece open, and
    press the seam allowances to one side. Then turn your fabric piece over and press the seam on
    the right side (preferably with a press cloth on top).

How to press a curved seam

    Examples of curved seams: necklines, armholes, hip seams.

    After sewing your seam, place your fabric piece on your ironing board and press the seam flat
    on both sides as you did with your straight seam.

    If you plan to press your seam allowances open, you may need to clip them first to make them
    lie flat. If you plan to press your seam allowances to one side, you may need to trim them first
    to make them lie flat once your item is turned.

    After trimming or clipping your seam allowances, with your fabric wrong side up, spread the
    sides of your piece apart and lay the seam across a tailor’s ham (see Pressing Tools). Then turn
    your piece over, draping the seam across the tailor’s ham again, and press it on the right side
    (preferably with a press cloth on top).

How to press a pointed seam

    To press pointed seams, such as the points of a shirt collar, use a point presser or tailor’s board
    (see Pressing Tools). After pressing the seam flat and trimming and clipping the seam
    allowances as needed, slip the pointed seam over one of the tools’ pointed surfaces and press.

How to press darts

    First, lay the dart flat on your ironing board. Press the dart seam and the dart fold flat on both
    sides. Then, with the wrong side up, spread the layers of your fabric piece apart and drape the
    dart over a tailor’s ham (see Pressing Tools). Press vertical darts (like those in a skirt) toward
    the center of the garment. Press horizontal darts (like bust darts) downward. Use the tip of
    your iron to press the dart, pressing just up to the dart point. If you’re working with a bulky
    fabric or if your dart is very wide, cut the dart open and press the sides flat. For a wide dart,
    trim the seam allowance first, then press it open. Turn your fabric piece over and press the dart
    seam on the right side (preferably with a press cloth on top).

How to press a seam that will be enclosed

    If a seam will be enclosed, like the seam in a waistband, cuff, or collar, grade and clip the seam
    if needed, then press the seam open. Turn your item right side out, then press the seam
    allowances together. You’ll get a flatter, nicer looking seam this way.

How to press napped fabrics

    Whenever you can, steam napped fabrics like velvet instead of pressing them. Do this by just
    holding your iron over your fabric for a few seconds. If you must press your napped fabric, use
    a needle board or velvet board to keep from crushing the pile. To use, place your fabric face down
    on the needle board and lightly press the fabric on the wrong side. As an alternative to a
    needle board, you can press some napped fabrics face down on a thick terrycloth towel. You
    can also use a thick terrycloth towel to press other textured or embroidered fabrics.

Applying moisture

    While some fabrics need to be pressed with a dry iron, other fabrics press better with moisture.

    You can steam fabric by using the steam setting of your iron or you can steam fabric with a
    dampened press cloth. You may find that using a dampened press cloth gives you more control
    over how much steam is generated. You might also want to use a press cloth if you have a
    problem with your iron spitting water. Use a spray bottle to dampen the cloth, place it on top of
    your fabric piece, then press.

    Some fabrics, like cotton, are best pressed when slightly damp. You can spray your fabric lightly
    with water before pressing it (test first on a scrap to make sure the fabric won’t water spot), or
    you can dampen small areas of your fabric using a brush or a dauber. To make a dauber, take a
    small length of wool or cotton fabric, roll it up, and secure it with a rubber band. Dip your brush
    or dauber in water and dab it onto the area you want dampened.

When to finger press

    When you finger press, you use the tips of your fingers to press your fabric instead of your iron.
    You may want to finger press a seam open before pressing it with your iron to make the task
    easier. Or you may choose to finger press a delicate or napped fabric that may be damaged if
    pressed with an iron.
Pressing is an essential part of sewing. If you’re a
beginner, expect to spend about as much time at
your ironing board as you do at your sewing

And pressing isn’t done all at once after you've
completed your item. You need to “press as you
sew,” pressing each seam after it’s sewn, and
always before crossing it with another seam.

Pressing as you sew will give your item that
professional look you want. Not pressing as you
sew will guarantee ending up with an item that
looks very “homemade.”

And pressing is different from ironing.
involves sliding your iron back and forth to remove
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